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ETAN, NGOs write Albright on military ties to Indonesia

3 March 2000

The Honorable Madeleine Albright 
Secretary of State 
United States Department of State 
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Albright,

We are writing to express our strong opposition to any U.S. Government efforts to re-engage with the Indonesian military. This is a sensitive moment in Indonesia's history with much pressure and high expectations being placed on the shoulders of the recently elected government. The leaders of the new democratic government of Indonesia are seeking to respond to widespread public demands for justice and accountability. Given the fragile coalition of power that now governs Indonesia, the U.S. Government should avoid sending any messages of support to those institutions that are hindering the processes of democratization and respect for human rights. A resumption of military engagement at any level will send a signal to the Indonesian armed forces that the U.S. government believes they have been rehabilitated, legitimizing the repression they continue to practice in the internal governance of Indonesia.

Perhaps more importantly, there is little evidence to show that previous years of U.S. military engagement with Indonesia, including training in human rights, did anything to prevent gross human rights violations by the Indonesian military. The U.S. has been training the Indonesian military since the late 1950s. During the last several decades, the people of East Timor and of Aceh, West Papua, and other provinces have been subjected to torture, disappearance, extrajudicial executions, rape, and even massacres carried out by the Indonesian military, particularly members of the elite special forces unit Kopassus. These military abuses have led hundreds of thousands of Indonesians to flee their homes and become internally displaced persons.

Those ultimately responsible for these human rights violations include several military leaders who have had close ties with the U.S., including Generals Prabowo Subianto and Zacky Anwar Mukarin who received U.S. military training and General Wiranto who has made several official visits to the U.S. Generals Anwar Mukarin and Wiranto are among those named by Indonesia's National Commission of Inquiry report on gross human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in East Timor. Lt. General Prabowo, former head of Kopassus, has admitted responsibility in a military disciplinary tribunal for the kidnapping and torture of two dozen activists.

As long as the "dual function" structure of the military places troops and officers at every level of society in a policing capacity, it cannot be claimed that civilian control has been asserted over the armed forces. The military is still a systematically repressive force in Indonesia. Even today, its troops continue to kill civilians in Aceh and are accused of inflaming the communal violence in the Molucca Islands and of forming "East Timor-like" militias in West Papua. President Wahid's appointment of a civilian as the Minister of Defense, the firing of the former military spokesman Major General Sudrajat, and the suspension of General Wiranto are all positive steps. But these steps are not sufficient evidence of fundamental reforms in the military's behavior or its basic structure.

This is clearly not the time for U.S. military re-engagement with the Indonesian military (TNI). Before any such efforts are undertaken, we believe that, as a minimum, the following benchmarks must be met.

1. Immediate reforms to reduce the military's presence and influence over local and provincial government structures with the long-term goal of the full termination of the "dual function" structure. The complete termination would require the removal of military officers from civil service posts as well as from their 38 reserved parliamentary seats.

2. Full cooperation by the military with both domestic and international investigations of human rights abuses that have occurred over the last forty years.

3. The creation of a permanent national human rights court to handle cases of past human rights abuses by the military and to prohibit further impunity for military officers.

4. The disbanding and disarming of all paramilitary militias, and the prosecution of militia members who have violated human rights.

5. The disbanding of both Kopassus, responsible for some of the most egregious human rights violations, and BAIS, the army's intelligence agency which spies on Indonesian citizens in order to halt "undesirable" political activities.

6. An immediate cessation of military and military-sponsored militia violence against the peoples of Aceh, West Papua, Lombok, the Molucca Islands, and East Timorese in West Timor.

Many of these benchmarks have already been called for either by the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) or by reform-minded leaders of the Indonesian military. The U.S. Government should actively support the reform efforts initiated by Indonesian civilian leaders as a minimum requirement before any re-engagement.

Rather than the U.S. Government focusing support and resources on military relations, a more constructive approach would be to strengthen the elected government of President Abdurrahman Wahid and the civilian institutions of governance. Technical assistance and funding is needed for the judicial system and the prosecution of those accused of human rights violations. Financial support and capacity-building for civil society groups, particularly human rights organizations, should be increased. Greater assistance to grassroots-initiated economic development programs will contribute to Indonesia's recovery from the economic crisis. In addition, increased humanitarian assistance to the refugees and internally displaced persons throughout Indonesia should be a high priority.

We understand the State Department is currently promoting training for the Indonesian police under non-military programs. Because of the historical relationship between the military and the police in Indonesia, we would discourage this initiative in favor of other important civil society building measures. Until the military control of the Indonesian police has fully ended, we strongly oppose all combat and anti-riot training for the police.

We appreciate your attention to this serious matter, and we look forward to receiving a reply.


Margaret Huang Program Director Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights

Roger P. Winter Executive Director U.S. Committee for Refugees

Joe Saunders Deputy Director Human Rights Watch Asia Division

Reverend Rodney I. Page Executive Director Church World Service

J. Daryl Byler Director, Washington Office Mennonite Central Committee

Elenora Giddings Ivory Director, Washington Office Presbyterian Church (USA)

Owen Lynch Senior Attorney Center for International Environmental Law

Miriam Young Executive Director Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace

Lynn Fredriksson Washington Representative East Timor Action Network

Bob Edgar General Secretary National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.

William C. Goodfellow Executive Director Center for International Policy

James H. Matlack Director, Washington Office American Friends Service Committee

Jordana Friedman Director, International Security Program Council on Economic Priorities

William R. Pace Director Center for Development of International Law

Medea Benjamin Co-Director Global Exchange

Jafar Siddiq Director International Forum on Aceh

Mike Amitay Executive Director Washington Kurdish Institute

Barbara DiTommaso Director, Commission on Peace and Justice of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, NY

John Oei Founder Indonesian, Chinese, and American Network (ICANET)

Ron Cruz President Portuguese-American Leadership Council of the United States, Inc.

Phil Wheaton Director Conversion for Reclaiming Earth in the Americas

John Dear, SJ Executive Director Fellowship of Reconciliation

Dr. Francis Kiem President Human Rights International

Edith Villastrigo National Legislative Director Women Strike for Peace

Lenora Forstel North American Coordinator Women for Mutual Security

Tamar Gabelnick Director, Arms Sales Monitoring Project Federation of American Scientists

Rev. John Chamberlin National Coordinator East Timor Religious Outreach

Meg A. Riley Director Washington Office for Faith in Action Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Melinda Miles Project Coordinator Quixote Center

Mary H. Miller Executive Secretary Episcopal Peace Fellowship

John M. Miller Director Foreign Bases Project

Karen M. Donahue, RSM (Institute Justice Team) Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Cary Josshart Washington Office Church of the Brethren

Gordon S. Clark Executive Director Peace Action

Eileen Weiss, Sharon Silber Co-Directors Jews Against Genocide

Kevin Costa Founder The Voting Project

Daniel Plesch Director British American Security Information Council

David J. Lello Council President Pebble Hill Interfaith Church

Lyn Beth Neylon President, Board of Directors Human Rights Access

cc: William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense 

Samuel R. Berger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

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